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8 Reminders for a Great School Year

Decrease stress and drama with these steps.

Wait, what? It’s already time for school to start? It seems like just yesterday that kids were doing the happy dance as they got off the bus and headed home for summer break.

Are you ready to kick off a great school year with less stress and as little drama as possible?

Here are eight reminders to help parents set the stage for a great year:

  1. It’s okay to say “no” when commitments get too demanding. Many child experts warn parents about the stress children experience when they participate in too many activities. Ask yourself, “Are we in control of our schedule, or does it control us?”
  1. Saying “no” can be for you, too. On top of children being stressed, parents really have to consider their own bandwidth when it comes to school, work and additional commitments. A stressed-out, tired parent who is always at the end of their rope typically leads to more drama. Ask yourself, “Will my family benefit more from this activity or from an unstressed parent?”
  1. Routines and structure at home will help everyone. Having consistency at home is best for children and parents alike. When you set a bedtime, morning, and getting home routine, you’ll actually decrease stress for children (and adults) because they know what to expect. Ask your family, “What’s one routine we can start that will help everyone after getting home from school?”
  1. Intentional evenings create smooth mornings. Things like choosing an outfit, packing lunches, getting backpacks ready with completed homework inside and signing papers before bedtime can make the morning better. Anything you (and your kids) can do the night before to make the morning less hectic is a serious plus! Ask your family, “What’s one thing we can all be responsible for every evening to help our mornings go better?”
  1. Let your children do what they are capable of doing for themselves. Start by giving each child a short list of responsibilities as their contribution to the family. It’s tempting to do things yourself because it’s faster or easier. But it’s good to develop the habit of delegating stuff you know they can handle. When you face the temptation to jump in and take over a task, tell yourself,  “Giving room for independence will have a bigger impact on my child than if we’re late.”
  1. You will always be one of your child’s teachers. As a parent, you’ll always be your child’s first teacher. But the job isn’t over just because they’re in school! From homework help to life skills, try to be active in your child’s education. Ask your child, “What is one subject you feel a little nervous about? Is there anything I can do to help support you in that subject?”
  1. Technology is a tool. Technology is almost always a huge part of education, so setting screen limits and technology boundaries can be tricky! You can find helpful information as you seek to make decisions about this at Families Managing Media. Ask your child’s teacher, “What role does technology play in the classroom? And what are the expectations for technology at home?”
  1. Regular family meetings can help keep communication open. Set a weekly time for the family to all sit down together – even if it’s only for 10 minutes. Talk about what’s on deck in the coming week for everyone, and see if anybody is responsible for taking food or materials to school. Plan meal prep for the week, or discuss anything important for everybody to know. Ask your family, “What are two things you’d like us to talk about more often?”

Getting into the swing of things as the school year starts doesn’t have to take till fall break! Make time for your family to connect and communicate – it’s one of the most effective ways to decrease stress and drama. Here’s to a stress-free and great start to the school year for your family!

Other blogs:

8 Ways to Manage Family Time – First Things First

My Spouse and I Disagree About Parenting – First Things First

How Technology Affects Families – First Things First

5 Tips for Keeping Your Child Motivated in School

You can be their biggest encourager toward success.

Part of being a parent is being your child’s biggest cheerleader, encourager, and motivator. Our kids have a lot going on in their lives, and staying motivated in school can be a challenge. It’s a responsibility and a privilege to come alongside and help them discover what motivates them.

If you study great leaders or successful people, there’s often one key common trait: they are highly self-motivated. They have clear goals, take steps to achieve them, are passionate, and aren’t crippled by failure. There are numerous theories on what causes motivation, whether intrinsic or extrinsic, arousal-driven, or instinctual. It may be all of those or a mixture. But self-motivation is definitely a driver of success. 

You can help your child discover what motivates them personally and foster an attitude of self-motivation.

Here are 5 tips for keeping your child motivated in school:

1. Create a learning environment.

Let them know that your family takes education seriously. Help your child see themselves as a good student. See the world as an educational opportunity and find different ways to help children learn. You can help them learn in the real world by using the five senses and everyday activities (no textbook required). 

2. Stay positive.

This may seem obvious but being positive is the best way to encourage your child. Reinforce positive behavior with praise and support. Acknowledge when mistakes happen, then turn them into learning opportunities.

Researchers have found strong evidence that when students believe in themselves, they achieve more academically. The best way for your student to believe in themselves is for you to believe in them. Students care when they think that others care about them. 

3. Get involved.

According to the National PTA, the most accurate predictor of academic achievement is not socioeconomic status or how prestigious the school is that a child attends. The best predictor of student success is the extent to which families encourage learning at home and involve themselves in their child’s education.

When parents are involved with their children’s school, they have the support to thrive and develop a lifelong love for learning. Showing interest in their studies, volunteering at school, and staying connected to their teacher are great examples of parental involvement. 

Children with engaged parents are more likely to:

  • Earn higher grades,
  • Graduate from high school and attend post-secondary education,
  • Develop self-confidence and motivation in the classroom, and
  • Have better social skills and classroom behavior.

Technology has made communicating with teachers convenient, but it doesn’t replace building a relationship with your child’s teacher. Parental involvement matters more now than ever. In 2016, research showed a drop in parents who believe that parent-teacher communication is effective. Knowing your child’s teacher and making sure they know you matters. Get to know other school staff as well.

4. Don’t obsess about the future.

As a parent, I want my child to be successful, but what does that mean? Does success mean they attend a top-tier college and launch a successful career? Maybe. Does it mean they discover what they love and chase that passion? Possibly. Does it mean they find ways to positively contribute to society and make the world a better place? Absolutely! 

Your child’s education is essential, but don’t focus too much on what lies ahead. Help them discover what motivates them in school right now, and what makes them passionate. Help them see how they can contribute to their community now today. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in where we want our kids to go that we overlook living in the moment with them. 

The future is important, and we should prepare them for what lies ahead. We don’t have to sacrifice the present in the process. 

5. Reward effort.

Your child may be motivated in school by rewards, and that’s ok. Who doesn’t like a reward for a job well done? Research shows that external rewards can undermine students’ internal motivation for learning. The findings don’t mean, however, that incentives have a universally negative effect on internal motivation. In the same study, students who initially showed little interest in drawing and later received an unexpected reward for doing so chose to spend more of their free time on that activity.

Side note: It’s highly beneficial to reward effort as well as achievements. Maybe history isn’t their forte, and an average grade is the best they can achieve. If they’ve put all their effort into the work, it deserves to be recognized.

Although each student is motivated differently, if a student believes that hard work and persistence pay off, it strongly affects their motivation. Take the time to help them identify their motivators.

Sources:

The Importance of Students’ Motivation for Their Academic Achievement – Replicating and Extending Previous Findings

Motivation Matters: How New Research Can Help Teachers Boost Student Engagement

How Parent Involvement Leads to Student Success

How the Instinct Theory Explains Motivation

Other blogs:

5 Ways Positive Parenting Creates a Lifelong Connection with Your Child

How To Encourage Your Child’s Strengths

5 Ways To Help Your Child Be More Confident

8 Ways Kids Are Smart

7 Expert Tips to Handle Difficult School Drop-offs

You can help your kids feel safe and secure about school.

Day one of school came, and we were ready to rock. Excited to see friends, make new friends, and launch into a new adventure. But then we got to the front door, and our kindergartner lost it. She didn’t want to go, and the tears flowed. We made it through days one, two and three, and then we were a week in. As we figured out routines for a successful school morning drop-off, each day was better than the one before.

Then, quarantines hit, and school closed for a time. We had to start the process all over again. School drop-offs can be difficult for many kids (my 5-year-old despises it). It becomes more challenging when you have to alter routines due to things out of your control, like a pandemic. 

It’s important to recognize and validate your children’s feelings. They may be anxious about a new place, new people, or the ever-changing schedule.

These tips from experts can help you  navigate school drop-offs like a pro:

1. Talk about what’s going to happen.

Know your school’s drop-off policy and where your child will go. Create a morning routine that works for your family. Also, let your child know when you’ll be back to pick them up. The more comfortable they are with the daily routine, the more likely they’ll be able to accept and even look forward to the morning drop-off.

2. Make sure everyone is rested.

Good sleep goes a long way in preparing for the day. When you’re crafting the morning routine, give yourself plenty of time to get ready too. We’ve found that we need to get up at least 30 minutes before our kindergartner to make the morning less stressful. 

3. Create a goodbye ritual.

When my son started school, we came up with a secret handshake. He looked forward to it every day, and it helped him mentally transition. My daughter has crafted her own goodbye ritual. Work with your child and come up with a goodbye ritual that makes them feel more comfortable. Maybe it’s a secret handshake or a hug at a specific spot on the way to school. 

4. Offer a comfort object.

A source of comfort can be helpful if your little one is anxious about going to school. Check with their teacher to see what they can and can’t have. Maybe it’s a small stuffed animal in their backpack they know they can’t take out during the day. Perhaps a keychain clipped onto their bag or a family picture can remind them of home.

5. Arrive early.

School mornings are stressful, and that stress level can go through the roof when you’re running late. Plan to arrive early. Schedule in a buffer time so your child isn’t feeling rushed. Whether that’s getting to the car line early, arriving at school in plenty of time to walk them to the door, or getting to the bus stop in time to talk for a few minutes. Arriving early can lower everyone’s stress levels.

6. Make it quick.

I had a friend tell me recently that when she dropped her son off for his first day of daycare, the teacher said the best thing you can do is say bye and leave. This is so true; painful, but true. The longer you linger, the harder it is on them. Often, when a child enters school, they are mentally transitioning to the day ahead. My daughter’s emotional drop-off on the first day of school only lasted a couple of minutes, and then she got busy with her day.

7. Stay positive.

Another thing you can do to help your child have a successful drop-off is to stay positive. Our stress and anxiety can quickly transfer to them. If you’re confident and optimistic, they are more likely to do the same. 

This school year looks to be full of unknowns. Each week, we don’t know how many days we’ll be in school or how our routine will be thrown off. We may experience that first-day drop-off anxiety numerous times, and we can help by being upbeat and positive. It may not be easy, but our kids don’t need easy; they need safety and security, and we can help them feel safe about school.

Sources:

How to handle difficult school drop-offs, according to a maternal wellness expert

Crying at Drop-Off – Perfecting the Preschool Separation

Other blogs:

How to Help My Child Handle Anxiety

8 Back to School Parenting Tips

Back to School Tips

How to Start School Routines

4 Ways Having a Routine Contributes to a Happy, Healthy Family

25 Things Parents Say When It’s Time for Kids to Go “Back to School”

If you have kids, you've probably said some of them yourself.

For many of us, it’s back-to-school time. Each time this year, we are bombarded with ads to help prepare us and our kiddos for school. 

Here are 25 things parents say (to yourself or to your kids) when it’s time to go back to school.

  1. “It’s about time!”
  2. “BYE! BYE! BYE!”
  3. “OMG, you have outgrown all of your clothes.”
  4. “I’m glad I finally get my life back.”
  5. “My grocery bill (electric bill) will go back to normal.”
  6. “Don’t make your teacher have to call me.”
  7. “Why don’t you want to go to school? You are gonna LOVE school.”
  8. “I don’t care if you don’t like that teacher.”
  9. “Did you brush your teeth?“
  10. “This backpack has to last you all year.”
  11. “There’s a fundraiser? Already?”
  12. “What’s with all these fees?”
  13. “Why does your teacher need 7 boxes of tissues?” Or: “Back in my day, all we needed was a Trapper Keeper, pencils and paper. Now, we have to buy out the store.”
  14. “I’ve got the whole house to myself! I’ve got the whole house to myself!“ (As I spin around in circles.)
  15. “Keep up with your stuff (water bottle, sweater, notebook), I’m not buying another.”
  16. “You lost it, already?!”
  17. “I can’t believe that you are in ______ grade. It seems like you were just in kindergarten.”
  18. “I can’t win without losing. My food bill goes down, but my GAS bill goes up.”
  19. “Call me Mario Andretti!!!”
  20. “These should last you all year.”
  21. I say to myself, “Do you hear that? No, what? Peace and Quiet!!!”
  22. “It’s the MOST Wonderful time of the year!!!”
  23. As they walk out the door, “Where has my baby gone?”
  24. “After last year, I’m so GLAD school is open.”
  25. “Go BE Great.”

LINKS:

Things Parents Say About Back 2 School | Back 2 School Comedy Sketch | The Mompreneur Plug

Parents Share Their Biggest Back-To-School Concerns for Fall 2020

15 Tweets That Nail How Parents Feel About Going Back to School

There is pretty much nothing more exciting and scary than thinking about crossing the threshold into your freshman year of college. Your parents won’t be telling you what time to get up or that you need to study. You can stay out as late as you like with whomever you like. Don’t feel like going to class? No problemo. The professor isn’t going to report you and your parents will never know. FREEDOM!

We asked some recent college grads what most surprised them about their freshman year, and here are some things they wished they had known:

ROOMMATES

95% of college freshmen have never shared a room with anybody, so you have to figure out how to communicate, handle conflict, respect each other’s differences and create clear boundaries. This is easier said than done, but worth the discussion for sure.

ABOUT YOUR PARENTS…

They may only be a phone call away, but they shouldn’t be coming onto campus to do your laundry, making sure you get to class, nagging you to study or setting up a party so you can get to know people. This is truly your chance to take advantage of what you’ve learned and put it into practice.

BE PREPARED TO:

  • Know how to do your laundry.
  • Live on a budget.
  • Manage your time. Don’t let the freedom go to your head.
  • Go to class.
  • Get involved in a few organizations to help you meet people.
  • Avoid the temptation to go home every weekend. 

ALCOHOL, DRUGS… AND SEX

No matter where you go to school, you might be shocked at the drug and alcohol scene. You may choose to stay away from it, but your roommate might not. (And it can definitely impact your relationship…) If you do choose to participate, don’t underestimate the kinds of things that can happen when you are under the influence. Chances are great that you will participate in behavior you otherwise would not get involved in.

Use your head. If you go to a party, get your own drink. Before you go somewhere alone, tell someone where you are going or even better – take somebody with you.

You should familiarize yourself with your college’s sexual misconduct policy and definition of consent and know what a healthy relationship looks like. Think about your boundaries ahead of time. 

Maybe you want to do some things differently at college, or perhaps there are some friendships you know you need to leave behind.

Freshman year is an opportunity for a fresh start and greater independence. Take this time to become who you really want to be and surround yourself with people who will help you reach your goals. The next four years are laying a foundation for your future, and how you spend your college years really does matter.

Sometimes, truth be told, the whole thing is super overwhelming, but nobody wants to admit that’s the case. If you ever feel like you’re in over your head, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are plenty of free resources on campus to help you adjust to campus life.

How is it that summer just started, yet the school supplies are already out in stores? In a few short weeks that will feel like they fly by, your baby will be headed to kindergarten. At this realization, in the midst of a little freak-out and hidden tears, parents will try to put on a brave face as they leave their little one in someone else’s care. But the key to this transition is to start the school routines now!

Preparing for that day is important not only for your child, but for you as well. A month may seem like a long way off, but when it comes to establishing new routines and rituals, it’s actually the right time to put things in motion.

Bedtime:

For example, if bedtime has been at 8:30 or later during the summer months, but a 7:30 bedtime will be in place during the school year, moving bedtime up in 15-minute intervals from now until the school year starts will help your child adjust and keep the drama about it still being light outside to a minimum. As a side note, blackout curtains might be a great investment.

Routines: 

Consider what morning and evening routines will be like, especially if this is your first child to head off to school. It can be unsettling for children when everything is changing, so it’s helpful to think about routines and rituals like a security blanket. Children find real comfort in predictability. If you put things into motion now, it will help your child feel more confident on that first day of school. For instance, practice getting up, getting dressed, brushing teeth, eating breakfast and figuring out the best order to accomplish those tasks and any others that must be done before leaving for school. Adapting your evening routine to how things will be during the school year will help as well. 

After school: 

Being at school and holding it together all day long is exhausting. Your child might come home from school and want to take a nap or they might have a meltdown, especially as they are adjusting to their new routine. Comfort them and help them put words to their emotions. In time they will adapt and adjust.

Independence: 

Remind yourself repeatedly to let your child do for themselves what they are capable of doing. Things like dressing themselves, putting on their shoes and velcroing or tying them, going to the bathroom, pulling their pants up and even buckling a belt are important to know how to do. If they are planning to buy their lunch at school, let them practice carrying a tray with their food and drink from somewhere in the kitchen to the table. That balancing act can be a little tricky. If they are taking their lunch, teach them how to pack it themselves. If they are riding the school bus, practice walking to and from the bus stop together.

Practice:

Make practicing these things fun by turning them into a relay race or a game. When you do that, you’ll be giving them a strong foundation to stand on as they head to school.

Organization:

Work with your child to find a location in your home where all things school-related live like backpacks, homework or notes that need to be signed. Helping them get in the habit of placing things in one location will make mornings easier for everyone.

Read:

Start reading with your child daily (if you aren’t already). Even if you aren’t a fantastic reader, just holding a book, pointing out pictures, colors, numbers and words, or teaching your child to turn the pages from right to left will help prepare them for kindergarten.

Other adults:

If you have told your child they don’t have to listen to anyone but you, now is the time to change that. When your child is at school they will need to be able to listen and follow instruction from their teacher and others. Additionally, if you have never left them in someone else’s care, try to arrange some time between now and the first day of school where they are in the care of other trusted adults. It is good for them to know that others can take care of their needs, and teachers will appreciate that you have helped them practice listening and following instructions from other adults.

Technology: 

This year will be different for your child, so consider a technology plan for your home when school starts. They will be expected to sit, listen and engage in activities, but screen time  is probably the last thing they need when they get home. Instead, playing outdoors in the fresh air can help them release stress and relax.

Emotions:

While you might be excited about your little one reaching this milestone, it would also be normal for you to feel some anxiety. Most of our children can read us like a book. If you are feeling uptight about the beginning of school and trying to hold that inside, your child will likely pick up on this and think you are not OK or that you do not want them to go to school. Acknowledging that and talking with other parents who are ahead of you on the journey could be extremely helpful to you and your child. 

Thinking about all that needs to happen before school starts may feel a bit overwhelming. The good news is, if you start now, you will already have your routine down by the time school starts. Both you and your child can head into the first day of school with confidence and great expectations for the school year.

Looking for more parenting resources? Click here!

Image from Unsplash.com

Many parents feel pressure to make sure their child is actually kindergarten-ready. But, are they really focusing on the things that ultimately prepare their child for future success? Before starting kindergarten, children need to know a few things, of course…

Knowing their name, being able to tie their shoes and going to the bathroom by themselves are important for sure. But did you know that social competency skills such as being able to listen, share material with others, solve problems with their classmates, cooperate and be helpful are every bit as important, perhaps more so?

Researchers from Penn State analyzed 753 children in Durham, N.C., Seattle, Nashville and rural Pennsylvania. They found that children who were more likely to share or be helpful in kindergarten were also more likely to obtain higher education and hold full-time jobs nearly two decades later. Kids without these social competency skills were more likely to face negative outcomes by age 25, including substance abuse problems, challenges finding employment or run-ins with the law.

The researchers found that for every one-point increase in a student’s social competency score, he or she was:

  • Twice as likely to graduate from college;
  • 54 percent more likely to earn a high school diploma; and
  • 46 percent more likely to have a full-time job by age 25.

For every one-point decrease in the child’s score, he or she had a:

  • 64 percent higher chance of having spent time in juvenile detention;
  • 67 percent higher chance of an arrest by early adulthood;
  • 52 percent higher rate of binge-drinking;
  • 82 percent higher rate of recent marijuana usage; and an
  • 82 percent higher chance of being in or on a waiting list for public housing at age 25.

The research shows that high-quality relationships and rich social interactions in the home, school and community prepare children well for the future. Never underestimate the importance of a stable home in the life of a child.

No matter your child’s age, you can help them learn what they really need to know. Parents and extended family, child care providers and neighbors—everyone really—can help young children develop these social-emotional skills.

Try these strategies to help children develop social/emotional competence:

  • Let them figure out how to solve their own problems (within reason).
  • Instead of making decisions for them, help them make decisions.
  • Teach them about emotions and help them understand other people’s feelings.
  • Give them opportunities to learn what it looks like to share with others.
  • Provide experiences where they can be helpful.
  • Teach them how to express themselves appropriately with direction.
  • Be intentional about giving them instructions and helping them follow through on what you asked them to do. This will serve them well when it comes to listening and following instructions in the classroom.
  • Give your child the chance to engage in activities with others where they learn to cooperate without being prompted.

Providing these opportunities is beneficial, before starting kindergarten AND far beyond kindergarten. Although it may be easier for adults to make these things happen for their children, easy isn’t always best. Step back and see what they can do—that’s some of the best kindergarten prep you could ever do.

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

Help! My child’s teacher has requested a parent-teacher conference!

I taught middle school and high school for over 20 years and I’ve raised five children. I’ve been on both sides of the teacher’s desk for conferences. I’ve been on both ends of difficult telephone calls. As a teacher, I’ve had to try to convince parents that their “little darling” needed to make some changes academically or behaviorally. On the flip side, as a parent, I’ve felt the burning desire to defend my child and desperately want to believe my kid’s side of the story.

Read more